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Fake Zapiro cartoon causes Twitter rage

Verashni Pillay

A fake Zapiro cartoon showing Jacob Zuma undergoing a colonoscopy has caused outrage at a time when the president is in the hospital

A fake version of a Zapiro cartoon is again doing the rounds on social media.

Satirical cartoonist Jonathan Shapiro is in for a surprise when he returns from leave next week. 

A fake version of one of his cartoons, which he has called out before, is again doing the rounds on social media at a sensitive time with President Jacob Zuma in hospital. 

Zapiro, as he is known for his politically edgy cartoons, on Monday responded to the Mail & Guardian, saying: “The cartoon is fake. The posting of this fake cartoon on social media is simply malicious. The original cartoon was drawn in 2002 of George Bush, 12 years ago! It has clearly been photoshopped.”

The original cartoon was published on July 11 2002 and showed then US president George W Bush bent over a doctor’s examination table undergoing a colonoscopy, showing his brain located in his rectum, much to the doctor’s surprise. 

Some years later another version of the cartoon emerged on social media, with President Jacob Zuma’s face from another Zapiro cartoon clumsily superimposed onto the 2002 image. 

An article on Zapiro’s website at the time noted that the image was fake, listing three key indications. 

“The date is 11 July 2002 was long before the showerhead was even invented,” read the article, referencing the image of Zuma coined by Zapiro with a showerhead attached to his head, after his notorious comments on taking a shower to avoid contracting HIV in 2006. 

Zapiro’s team also noted that “the font used for writing ‘Zuma’s’ is different to ‘recent colonoscopy’,” and that “Zuma’s head has obviously been superimposed over Bush’s head. You can still see Bush’s ears”.

The 2002 cartoon was originally published ahead of the Bush administration’s controversial war in Iraq, which provoked a backlash from many quarters. The world leader was also vilified for his often nonsensical statements as a leader. 

Twitter circulation
It is unclear how the faked cartoon, which is several years old, came back into circulation. It started going viral on Twitter in South Africa shortly after the presidency announced on Saturday that Zuma had been admitted to a hospital in Pretoria for tests. By Sunday it was trending nationally. 

While ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe insisted on Sunday that the president’s hospital admission was a normal check-up, City Press reported on the same day that Zuma stopped speaking ten minutes into a speech on Friday complaining of a neck pain and is expected to be out of action for three to four days in something of a health scare for the 72-year-old leader. 

The atmosphere in South Africa is particular tense after a cartoon published by Eyewitness News mocked ANC leaders and voters as clowns and “poephols”. The incident was followed by a senior leader from the Democratic Alliance, who tweeted an image that showed ANC voters as dogs.

The ruling party has slammed both incidents as racist and lodged a complaint with the South African Human Rights Commission. 

Like Bush, Zuma has faced similar mocking by the public for his many public gaffes, such as praising subservient women and noting that women should have children, criticising “clever blacks” and linking support for the opposition to being cursed. 

Welcomed Zuma depiction
The faked cartoon seemed to have played into this public perception, with some users on Twitter welcoming the depiction. However the majority of users were incensed by the cartoon. Later, when it was proved to be a fake, several commentators wondered at the extreme reaction to the cartoon. 

Talk show host and analyst Eusebius McKaiser hinted at something of a double standard in reactions to the two images:

Business Day editor Songezo Zibi meanwhile pointed out that a larger malaise underpinned the reaction to the fake image:

Other users meanwhile could only imagine Zapiro’s reaction when he got wind of the uproar:


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